Simon Inger and Tracy Gardner released an interesting report a little while ago on How scholars navigate to scholarly content. This is a followup to a similar study carried out in 2005 [pdf], and one of the interesting strands of this report is an account of changes in that period.
The focus is on how publishers should think about their network presence in light of changing network behaviors of scholars. They report that readers are increasingly more likely to land in a publisher's website from some other starting point (RSS, Google, A&I database, library portal, etc). This switches focus from navigation of the publisher website to effective disclosure (my word) to those other starting points. They suggest that the "most highly sought-after features of journal web sites are content alerting services, but not personalization and not search functions". They emphasizes the importance of link and data syndication strategies to increase the exposure of their content to their potential readers.
There is much of interest in the specific results, and they have been collected into a readable and brief report. The conclusion provides a good summary.
A key measure of publisher success is the usage of its e-journals, which can be maximised by influencing and enabling all the routes to its content. Library technology plays a key role in user navigation, as well as the more apparent starting points such as Google or major subject A&I databases.
Publishers need to support all conceivable routes to their content through the web. This can best be achieved through the open distribution of XML metadata catalogues, through RSS feeds, collaboration with CrossRef, library technology vendors and through working with major gateways, A&Is and search engines.
Just as was stated in 2005, as metadata distribution is maximised and users are able to choose more freely their preferred routes to content, many of the advanced features that users require are likely to migrate to their chosen gateways (or portals) leaving the publisher site ever more as a content silo, without the need for many of the advanced features that are currently present there.
At the same time it remains true that publishers are under pressure from editorial boards, society members and perversely even from librarians, to create a high level of functionality and the publisher has to manage a careful balancing act to satisfy all of its constituencies. [How readers navigate to scholarly content PDF]
One question I had as I was reading it. They make a distinction between A&I services and library web pages as starting points. When the former was made available through the latter, it was not clear to me which way it was counted.
Some takeaways for me:
- The report provides good news for libraries, especially in relation to the important 'channeling' role of link resolvers. The authors report that nearly 60% of respondents were guided to e-journals by the library over 95% of the time. They note that this is an 'amazing result'.
- Disclosure to user workflows has been a recurrent theme of this blog, and I was interested in how this was a major theme of the report. Increasingly we have to build services around user workflow, rather than expect them to build their workflow around services.
- I recognized the truth of the last paragraph in the conclusions above, and smiled at the expanded version in the body of the text where it was noted that features sometimes had to be incorporated to support a 'political position with respect to societies and powerful editorial board members'.